Tales from the Governor’s Mansion: Anecdotes from the West Family Oral Histories

As described in an earlier post, we graduate assistants have been reading through the transcripts of oral histories held by SCPC to collect subject headings and summaries for the library catalog. I’ve come across a number from the West family, which put together an interesting picture of the West family and the lives of political families on the whole. They give a rather complete outline of life in the Governor’s Mansion.


Governor and Mrs. John West

John Carl West left his law career to serve first as Lieutenant Governor and then as Governor to South Carolina from 1967 to 1975. He returned to law briefly before becoming United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1977 to 1981, when he returned once again to law and accepting the position as Chairman of the Board of the Seibels Bruce Insurance Company. His wife, Lois R. West, was the first interviewed, in 1995. John C. West participated in four oral histories between the years 1996 and 1997. Together with their daughter Shelton West Bosley, they participated in one last oral history in 2000.

All three interviews mention one incident in particular: the time that Mr. West, with the encouragement of one of his assistants, invited every employee of the state of South Carolina to the Governor’s Mansion for an event. When he realized how many there were, he figured only a fraction of them would attend. Just the opposite: hundreds of employees attended! Mr. and Mrs. West stood out in the cold to greet every guest as they were let into the house in shifts, taking breaks only to refill the coffee pots.

Another anecdote that Mrs. West seemed particularly fond of relating happened when a Girl Scout troop came through the Mansion. One of the girls asked Mrs. West about the flowers, to which she replied that they were her flowers, because this house belonged to her as well. Mrs. West received a phone call from the girl’s mother later expressing concern that she had come home with an armful of flowers she had plucked from the Mansion’s garden.

These and many other tales from the Governor’s Mansion and from other times in the Wests’ lives can be found in three of our oral history transcripts: Gov. West’s, Mrs. West’s, and their interview with their daughter Shelton. You can also check out the rest of the oral history transcripts at http://library.sc.edu/scpc/oralhist.html, or if you’d like to learn more about John Carl West, you can see the full contents of his collection at http://library.sc.edu/scpc/west.html.

Contributed by graduate student assistant Clara Bertagnolli

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